By Jim Williams
Special to S.F. Examiner
We are about a week away from Major League Baseball’s official Opening Day for 2019 (the Oakland A’s sojourn to Japan notwithstanding), and San Francisco Giants fans are rightly asking what they can expect from a club whose roster is still being remade — minor move by minor move — by new president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi.
We already know that this will be the final year for manager Bruce Bochy. The three-time World Series champion and the longest-tenured manager in baseball is calling it quits at the end of the season, so how will his tenure with the Giants end?
I put that question to the analyst team for ESPN Sunday Night Baseball: Alex Rodriguez and former Stanford star Jessica Mendoza. Both felt that this clearly will be a rebuilding year, and that in the very competitive National League West, it is important for Giants fans to be patient.
“I feel like they’re in a — I don’t know of the exact term they’re using, but I feel like they’re definitely rebuilding,” Mendoza said. “And the biggest thing is the farm team. This is a team that has a lot of great leadership, and I personally want to see the Giants being able to turn this corner and obviously with the new front office, new leadership, new decisions that are being made, instead of going out and getting a ton of big names, really just trying to build back from the ground up.”
The Stanford grad made it clear that one key to the team’s future success will come from the Giants’ aging stars. Mendoza thinks they need to be mentors, especially with an emerging young core that features starting pitcher Dereck Rodriguez and center fielder Steven Duggar.
“When you look at the Buster Poseys, and the Brandon Crawfords and the Madison Bumgarners, [they’re] just incredible guys with experience that I think can help these young players,” Mendoza said. “I just don’t feel like they have all of the right young players in the farm system, and I think that’s something they’re going to build on. I think they have some great potential guys.
When I look at them today, this year, 2019, in the NL West, I think this is going to be a year where if you’re in San Francisco, you’re going to go out and watch a few good players and a lot of potential in the future. But I don’t think they’re going to be someone that’s going to contend for this division.”
As for Rodriguez, he thinks that the Giants’ success may have masked their need to rebuild.
“Anytime someone has been a champ for five or six years, there’s a natural hangover, and sometimes that hangover lasts five years,” Rodriguez said. “As an organization that’s going through incredible changes, and you have a manager who you have to figure out a way to rebuild and do it in a way where you’re not trying to take too big of a bite too soon. Understand that you do have to have five years, and in the next decade you’re able to win another one, two or three championships.”
Speaking of the National League West, Rodriguez is excited about how the division race will play out.
“When you think about the division, you have to think about the Dodgers,” Rodriguez said. “Obviously [Clayton] Kershaw, they’re always going to be Goliath, as long as they’re around.”
That being said, Rodriguez is very interested in what is going on in San Diego, where the Giants will open their regular season on Thursday.
“The Padres obviously have made some … very bold moves with Manny Machado, Eric [Hosmer] last year, and having the No. 1 young farm system in the game, it’s something that you have to keep a close eye on,” Rodriguez said. “And I think a lot of eyes will be on the Padres, especially the first 50 days of the season.”
Meanwhile, the A’s, after dropping their first two games of the season to the Mariners in Tokyo, will play their home opener Thursday against baseball’s new half-billion-dollar man, Mike Trout, and the Angels.
Rodriguez — once was the highest-paid player in the game — was happy to add his two cents on Trout’s new contract: “He’s right at the top. He is the best player in a $10 billion annual business, and he is a tremendous young man. I have two daughters, and I pray at night I would want my daughter to marry someone like him. He’s a family man, he’s humble … He is an anchor that you build your franchise around. They have a great fan business, draw three million people a year and winning is going to come after that. But it starts with the greatest players. And we are in the entertainment business. And Arte Moreno, good for him, when he understands he has the best, reward them and that’s great.”
Jim Williams records Stream On, a weekly podcast on sports media. His guest this week is Stanford grad Emilie Deutsch, vice president of original programming and features, CBS Sports. Jim talked with Deutsch about CBS’ NCAA March Madness Confidential, which features CBS crews embedded with some of the top teams in the NCAA Tournament.